Monday, May 18, 2015

Campus May Queens

Each year that a May Day celebration was held on campus, a May Queen was elected. From the biggest festivals of 1912 and 1916 to the final year of 1954, a May Queen was present. She was typically a senior elected by her classmates who served as the mascot of the event and in the later years, as the main attraction.

May Day Court, 1938
During the massive fetes of 1912 and 1916, the May Queen rode in the procession on a float beside her king. She and the King of May presided over the festivities of the day, such as plays and dances. After 1916, there was an inevitable break in the celebrations due to the eminent war. When the May Day festivities returned in the 1920s, they were never as elaborate as those prior to the war. The May Queen and her court became the focus of these later festivals.

May Queen, 1950

After 1916, May Day occasionally featured plays, parades, and dances, with the Queen and her court as the constants. The Queen would be crowned while her court looked on. In some years, the court sat on an outside stage in Peabody Park while dancers or even plays were performed in front of them.

Virginia Ambrose, May Day Queen of 1940

The May Day celebrations officially ended in 1954 after being abolished by the senior class. May Day was considered too close to commencement and was a time consuming and expensive endeavor. The seniors had other responsibilities as graduation loomed near. The only thing to survive the May Day tradition was indeed the May Queen (name changed to Beauty Queen), who would be elected with her court in the spring.

This blog was created by Jennifer Brooks, volunteer at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, April, 2015.

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